Nepal | June 03, 2020

Preventing methanol poisoning

Dr Rakesh Ghimire
Share Now:

We have been hearing news about deaths after consumption of toxic alcohol time and again. In mid March, there were around 21 deaths in Dhanusha, Janakpur due to consumption of toxic alcohol. Recently, poisonous liquor consumption killed 12 in Mahottari, also in province 2. Could it have been methanol poisoning?

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood spirits, is a widely available chemical. It is used in everyday products like plastic, paints, cosmetics and fuel. According to the World Health Organisation report, in 2015-2016, approximately 57 per cent of the world’s population over the age of 15 consumed alcohol.

Outbreaks of methanol poisoning occur when methanol is added to illicitly- or informally-produced alcoholic drinks. In the recent years, there have been numerous methanol poisoning outbreaks in different parts of the world. The size of these outbreaks has ranged from 20 to over 800 victims, with case fatality rates of over 30 per cent in some instances.

Methanol poisoning is a global public health issue that has received little focus. The population at risk of methanol poisoning could be people with low incomes because unregulated alcoholic drinks are generally very cheap and are, therefore, an attractive option to these people.

Methanol poisoning victims often only seek medical care after significant delay, mainly because there is a latent period between ingestion and toxic effects. Late medical care contributes to high morbidity and mortality levels seen in many methanol poisoning outbreaks.

Features of methanol toxicity include drowsiness, unsteadiness and disinhibition in the first few hours of consumption followed by headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, heavy chest pain, breathlessness and brain damage after a variable period of time. Vision is often affected, with blindness in severe cases. Death of the victim may occur from respiratory arrest.

Methanol poisoning can be treated if diagnosed within 10 to 30 hours of ingestion. The treatment modalities include fomepizole, high doses of ethanol and other supportive care. The preferred antidote, fomepizole, is not readily available, and the current price makes it unattainable for most victims in high-risk countries where people are affected. Fomepizole is registered in Nepal, but it is not available, which could be due to the high cost.

Prevention of methanol poisoning should start at the individual level by refraining from purchasing or producing illegal alcoholic drinks. The individuals should be well aware of methanol toxicity and seek medical attention immediately.

Public awareness of the dangers of informally produced and illicit alcoholic drinks is one of the most effective ways to prevent and control methanol poisoning. Medical professionals should be well trained in the diagnosis and management of methanol poisoning as this is vital in early recognition of an outbreak and improvement of outcome.

A national strategy and legal framework to reduce the harmful use of alcohol should be put in place. The government should bring regulations regarding illegal sale of such substances and also impose penalties on those who break the rules.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Post-partum woman rescued from Baglung

POKHARA: A new mother was airlifted from Baglung and brought to Pokhara after she developed complications in her health post delivery. It has been learnt that the woman, who delivered her baby 10 days ago, had to be brought to Pokhara-based Western Regional Hospital as she fainted consequential t Read More...

Sunny Leone supports wildlife learning centre in LA

KATHMANDU: Sunny Leone seems to be helping animals return to the wild — it is evident in a Instagram post on June 2. Leone, who is currently in Los Angeles with her family, can be seen feeding a giraffe in the video. She has captioned the post as: "Felt so blessed we could support this w Read More...

Body of sixth person missing in Chaurjahari massacre found after 10 days

JAJARKOT: The body of the sixth victim of Chaurjahari massacre, wherein Dalit youth Nawaraj Bk and his friends were attacked by the villagers in Rukum West ten days ago, was found today in the banks of Bheri River. According to Deputy Superintendent of Jajarkot District Police Office, Kishore Read More...


Brazil sets another record for daily coronavirus deaths

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil registered another record number of novel coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday evening, as the pandemic in Latin America's largest country shows no signs of slowing down. The nation registered 28,936 additional cases of the nove Read More...

High-level panel to decide on easing lockdown by tomorrow

KATHMANDU, JUNE 2 The High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 formed under Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Ishwar Pokharel will decide in a day or two whether or not to ease the lockdown. Member Secretary of the committee Narayan Prasad Bi Read More...

FIFA adds voice to protests over Floyd's death

BERN: World soccer's governing body FIFA has joined sports leagues, teams and players around the globe to express solidarity amid outrage over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in the United States. The National Football League, National Hockey League an Read More...

Nepal's ruling party stresses dialogue with India to resolve territorial dispute 

Kathmandu, June 2  Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Narayan Kaji Shrestha urged India to sit for dialogue with Nepal to resolve Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani issues. He welcomed Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's remark about resolving border disputes with Nepal through dia Read More...

Nepali Congress registers statute amendment bill 

Kathmandu, June 2 The main opposition Nepali Congress today registered a private constitution amendment bill at the Parliament Secretariat seeking to change the constitution's provisions related to citizenship, language, provincial boundaries and formation of a boundary commission. Eight Nepal Read More...